Bibi (Habibi) and Sabi (Wabi Sabi) – Ocicats (cats)
Name: Douglas Klassen and Linda Bialecki (Capt.)
Boat name: Aries Too
Boat model: Nordhavn 55
Years cruising with pet: Four
Funniest moment: Sabi entered the cockpit from the swim platform with a shrimp in her mouth she had fished out of the water on her own. She proudly plunked it down at our feet. Bibi, sensing an opportunity, pounced on the shrimp and ate it in two bites. Yumm! Better than a mouse! Sabi, looking a bit puzzled, and perhaps betrayed, must have been thinking: "When did I become your personal chef?"
Second funny moment: We had installed a retracting bug screen on the cockpit door - both to manage bug ingress, and to keep the kitties inside when we did not want them outside. One day, Bibi was chasing Sabi through the saloon at high speed. She veered under the dining table and he, not being able to arrest his momentum, hit the screen and popped out on the other side in the cockpit (the screen is not attached on the bottom so it can retract). The look of total surprise on his face was priceless! Unfortunately, from then on the kitties had this figured out, so we had a large piece of plexiglass cut to size so it would slot into the doorframe inside of the bug screen high enough so they couldn't simply squeeze over it and back under the screen (that was after a failed experiment with a shorter plexiglass insert).
Scariest moment: We were docked at Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach. I had left the small window on the port side of the pilot house open just a crack. Apparently during the night Sabi escaped to go walkabout. In the morning, we couldn't find her anywhere on board and started walking up and down the docks looking, calling. We posted a notice of missing pet (with reward). Later in the day, Linda had a brainstorm - you could almost see the cartoon speech bubble with bright light bulb hovering over her head!). "Let's put Bibi in the rolling grocery cart and walk him along the dock." Sure enough, after one pass and not two boats down from Aries Too, Bibi starts howling and we hear a faint reply from beneath the floating dock boards. We shine a bright light through a narrow gap and can see Sabi, wet and shivering, trapped underneath sitting on a pontoon. I headed to the boat to put on a wetsuit planning to dive underneath and bring her back - the wetsuit being for protection from scratches. Meanwhile, crew from a nearby mega-yacht had noted our frantic search and had brought tools to the site to unscrew and lift the floating dock planks. By the time I got back, two boards had been lifted and I was able to reach down and lift Sabi off the pontoon. Having spent the night and most of the following day on the pontoon, a warm shower, lots of treats and hugs and Sabi is now back to her normal purring self.
We had other, similar, incidents which proved two things: 1) Cats are natural swimmers; 2) They really must have nine lives (we used up four of them on Aries Too - always in marinas).
Most treasured memories: The long multiple overnighters on duty with a warm, furry, purring beast on your lap, sitting in the Captain's chair in the pilothouse. The accuracy with which they were able to dispense with, and consume, flying bugs for their protein supplement.
Unexpected/unanticipated difficulties: They do get sea-sick just like humans. And, over time, like humans, they adapted and gained their "sea legs". Being "honest" about having pets aboard while checking into any of the non-French East-Caribbean islands - especially Antigua. Endless paperwork and extra fees were generated. We learned to stay silent on the subject - easier to do with cats than dogs - except with the French who didn't care and welcomed them.
Unexpected/unanticipated joys: We got exactly what we expected: companionship and affection.
Worst thing about traveling with pets: Limitations on both of us for simply leaving the boat for longer trips ashore or back home to the US. Two days away was the max without sitters. Longer trips (e.g. family visits) were normally taken solo, with one of us staying aboard to babysit.
Best thing about traveling with pets: The companionship, the affection and constant amusement over their antics.
Advice: If you don't like going ashore twice a day, come what may, a dog is probably not your best choice. Cats, with their litters, are much easier, but cats are not for everyone. Either one can complicate lengthy travel off the boat. However, if pets are important in your life, there is no reason to think any differently about them on a boat than on land.
Other: Lay in lots of your/their favorite food and litter - they don't like change and options in the Caribbean are severely limited (except PR).